Friday, November 26, 2010

The elf and the rose

Yesterday was an auction day for us. We got soaked on the way there, frozen in the auction room and our train was delayed on the way home because of problems with an unruly passenger. The cards we bought were very good though, so it was worth it. I love this one.

In France, baby girls are found at the heart of a rose and boys at the heart of a cabbage

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baby in a basket

In the 1920s a working mother had to take the baby with her to the fields. It doesn’t look too comfortable, but Ré island is small so there wouldn’t have been far to go.

For newcomers to this blog, the donkey is wearing pyjamas to protect its legs from mosquito bites.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th

This blog especially lends itself to a special post of remembrance. Over the last few years I’ve read a lot of postcards written at the front. Boys writing home – some of them could barely write. Men writing to their wives and children. Some in a hurry some with time on their hands….

Some postcards of World War One

British soldiers resting

Les Chausseurs Alpins, French soldiers with special knowledge of the Alps. Thousands were killed in avalanches as well as battle.

Wounded English soldiers

Masses were held at the front too

And to finish; a few lines from Wilfred Owen. Killed a few days before the Armistice, he was 25 years old. A verse from ‘The dread of falling into nought’

My power of life, though youthful, also sinks;
Before my time I bear a hoary head;
And chill airs strike my brow, that blow, methinks,
Straight from the icy cavern of the dead.
Night darkens round; my day shall know no afternoon.

Other posts on World War One.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Before the fire

We managed to acquire some very rare, old postcards of the Réunion Islands. The cards are all in very poor condition, but still very collectable.

Here’s one of them. People are leaving church after Mess. The church burnt down in 1905 and the postcard says that the picture was taken before the fire. It’s interesting to see that the card was written on February 16th 1905! There was also a cyclone on the island during the early years of the 20th century.

A link to the Réunion department of our store.

Friday, November 05, 2010


These two postcards are here simply because I love the name of the town where they come from; Villemomble. The cards were sent on 1903. Today the town is in the suburbs of Paris.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New York

This postcard dates between 1913 when the Woolworth Building was built and 1931, the year that the Empire State Building was completed. The Singer building was demolished in 1967

“ The red building is the old Singer Building which used to be the tallest in the world. The white one to the right of course is the Woolworth building which now is the tallest. The street is the lower end of Broadway. The upper end of Bway is where all the theatres are concentrated.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Calvary at Plougastel

A photograph if this Calvary recently appeared on another blog . A few days later I came across the postcard in our collection. I thought I’d post it here as it is an interesting subject. As usual the local children have wriggled themselves into the photograph.

Here is a link to Caroline’s photos where you can see the top of the cross in more detail. She tells me that it is made of granite!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A collector of postcards

We’ve recently acquired some postcards from a collection which are in very poor state. Many of the cards are falling apart, have been nibbled by insects or have foxing (rust stains). The postcards were collected by a young woman from around 1902 onwards. She posted an announcement in “Le Petit Echo de la Mode” (magazine founded in 1880) looking for people willing to exchange postcards with her. This is what makes her cards so special, even though they are in such bad condition. The cards that she received were carefully selected by other collectors. A lot of them are unusual and rare. Not your usual tourist cards at all.

This card from Calais is interesting because it is a photograph of the shop run by the photographer himself. If that his family in the doorway?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Peacock Lady

This card raised the question of copyright. We were contacted by a French author of historic novels who wanted to use the image as an illustration for one of her books. We don’t own the copyright and as long as the publisher is long dead and gone there is no problem. We sent her a scan of the card and she wrote back saying that she might use the image and if she did my name would be mentioned. Fame at last!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gruss aus Feldkirch

An Austrian card for a change. From the town of Feldkirch. I love the way that this card has been decorated and coloured. It’s also in excellent condition considering it’s over 107 years old. Click on the image to see it in better detail.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A view of La Rochelle

All you have to do is substitute the horses and carts for cars and you would see that nothing has changed over the last 100 years. The shops are very different though, most of them today are bars or (real)estate agents.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Destination Cannes

Even 107 years ago Cannes was a destination to dream of. It became popular in the 19th century thanks to a British Statesman, Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux. Here you see the railway station complete with steam train.

Since 1946 Cannes is especially well known for the Cannes Film Festival.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sun’s Talisman Card

I was sure that I’d be able to find something out about this card which was produced during the First World war. No information at all. I managed to find out that the flag in the top right hand corner represents the Russian Empire. There is the French flag and the Belgian flag. The flag in the bottom left hand corner is a mystery.

Protect the one I love
You who produce the great miracles of nature
You who all religions bow down before
You who see the dear soldier that I cannot see
You who all believe in when the thunder roars.

The writer talks of the end of the war coming soon... in February 1918 there were 9 more months to wait.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Traditional bonnet

I couldn’t let this little girl go without including her in my collection here. If she were alive today she would be over 100 years old. She’s showing off her bonnet for a series of postcards on local headdresses from Brittany. All through France women and girls from every town and region would have been proud to show off their traditional clothes

Monday, August 09, 2010

Making up

I love this costume card. The colours are just right and I like to see the costumes that people wore in the different regions of France a hundred years ago. This one is entitled “Peace is made”. Well, the husband looks pleased with himself at least…

The rest I can’t translate as it is in ‘patois’ – the ‘dialect’ of the region.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A musical Sunday...

...long ago in Toulon in the South of France. This postcard reminded me of the paintings by the English painter, LS Lowry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maison Rouff

A very old postcard, not at all in good condition, but with a wealth of information after a ltttle research. The ladies are standing in front of the French fashion house, Maison Rouff. Beautifully made clothes and soft furnishings from this store are now sought after collectables. César Ritz chose Rouff for table cloths etc. when he opened his first hotels.

I have no idea why the ladies were showing off their lovely parasols like that. Click on the image to get a more detailed view of their clothes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Up to the top

These Swiss climbers, making their way to the top of a sérac in 1902 reminded me of a poem:

How to Tell the Top of a Hill
(John Ciardi)

The top of a hill
Is not until
The bottom is below.
And you have to stop
When you reach the top
For there's not more UP to go.
To make it plain
Let me explain:
The one most reason why
You have to stop
When you reach the top - is:
The next step up is sky.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Another card from Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. This lady is from the Caucasus. I’ve been trying to find out where by searching for the lace in the internet. No luck so far.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Three sisters

A very special card all of the way from Russia in 1906. This card reminds me so much of myself with my sisters. I’m the one pretending to be interested in the grass growing on the left hand side.

Dom’s young man used to live in Russia so he came in useful in translating and research. The red cross is the symbol used by the Saint Evgueni Community, St Petersbourg who published the card. And others too. Here are a few of them.

If you visit the website, click on the images and you will enjoy the cards larger than life.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A poem lovely as a tree

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Need I add more?

Until recently the cedar tree was a famous meeting place in the Jardins de la Fontaine, in Nimes. Unfortunately the bad weather this winter has taken its toll… Here are some more pictures of what was left of the tree at the end of March 2010.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vase Danse

Fabbio Fabbi (1861–1946) was an Italian painter who specialized in oriental paintings. I love the colours and movement in this postcard from Egypt. Here are some more, I especially like ‘The abduction in Cairo’…

Oops, this painting was in fact by his elder brother Alberto Fabbi, 1858-1906. I think that you'll agree, both brothers certainly knew how to paint.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Through the arch

This postcard is faded so it’s a little difficult to see the subject; lighthouses. Imagine stepping though the archway and onto the beach. The sea is blue and the sand warm between your toes…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The man who could have been King

Philippe Duke of Orleans would have been the King of France if it weren’t for the French revolution. He was very interested in wildlife and nature as well as writing.

He owned a property near to Evesham in Worcestershire (UK), Wood Norton. Which is where I come in. He had his own zoo there and when my father was asked to clear some ground there in the 70s, I remember him coming home and telling us that he’d dug up bones of the animals that must have been in the zoo. Wood Norton was also used as a training centre by the BBC at the time that I worked in the bank at Evesham. We saw students from all over the world – oh happy days.

Back to Louis Philippe Robert d'Orléans, he was born in 1869 in England and died in 1926 in Sicily. At one point he was put in prison for returning to France from where he had been exiled, but was granted his freedom after a few months. He never returned to France.

I know that there was a wedding of some importance at Wood Norton. I saw photographs at the museum in Evesham. The town was honoured on that occasion by the visit of Edward VII no less!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A lesson in focus

This postcard is possibly over 110 years old. As well as a pleasant picture which drew my eye, is the clarity of detail from the shadow of the tree on the ground to the clock on the church. (It was half past two). I wonder what the gentleman would make of being enlarged and put for everyone to see on a blog?

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Mousy Tail...

Sorry, I couldn’t resist a little play on words.

The mouse family had their little adventure back on 1906. The cards were sent to an 8 year old girl, Odette by her cousin, Ninette. The cards at entitled: The Rascal – Imprudence – Conspiracy – Evasion – Outcome, “The Cake Walk”; appropriate music for hungry mice. Debussy was yet to write his famous tune (Children’s Corner suite -1908) but “Cakewalk” music was popular in the US.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gilbert and Gish

John Gilbert and Lillian Gish were together for the 1926 film ‘La Bohème’ directed by King Vidor.

In order to prepare for the death scene Lillian Gish ‘allowed no liquid to touch her lips’ (to change her voice I suppose), she also visited hospitals in order to learn about the effects of tuberculosis. She didn’t think much of John Gilbert who was infatuated with her and messed up the love scenes so that he could kiss her as much as possible.

Lillian Gish died in 1993, she was almost 100 years old.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A mystery house

There is no clue whatsoever as to the whereabouts of this house. Why was the photograph taken? Could it be a guesthouse in the suburbs of a tourist town? What time of day was it? What day of the week? Which year? There are roses but not too many leaves on the trees. Springtime perhaps?

We’re putting the card online for sale. Someone somewhere might have something to say and let us know….

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bragou bras

Bragou bras were working trousers which were worn throughout France at one time. By the time this postcard was made, just over a hundred years ago, the custom had just about died out. Plonévez Porzay is in Brittany.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

And you thought that pollution was a new problem

This really is a wonderfully detailed card from Aix-les-Bains. The postcard dates from around 1900 and is in exceptional condition. Can you see what the man is doing in the foreground? I suppose that someone had to do it. Before the arrival of the motor car the pollution from house manure in London was such a big problem that it was discussed in parliament. You can only grow so many roses….

Click on the image to get a better view.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ready for battle

These four young men captured my imagination. They are all very different to each other despite their uniform.

The first one on the left is younger than the others, I get the impression that he is shy, he’d rather not have his photograph taken and certainly doesn’t quite feel like one of the band yet. Next is the one you can rely on; If you met him in the street he’d be happy to talk for a while and if you needed a hand with anything, he’d be your man. He writes postcards to his wife and family regularly and looks forwards to news from home. Third in line comes the thoughtful one, he writes long letters home describing all sorts of things, from the birds he saw building a nest to the silly pranks of those around him. He won’t write about the horrors of war that he sees until the war is safely over. The man on the right is very sure of himself, he probably teases the youngster, but means him no ill; he likes to make his comrades laugh. He has managed to conquer the heart of a woman in every town that they’ve passed through. He means to write back to his wife and mother but doesn’t seem to get the chance somehow. He will always be able to tell you where you can get hold of a packet of cigarettes.

The coats that they are wearing are pretty special too; known at the Capote model Poiret. They were designed by the French couturier Paul Poiret, they used less blue-grey material than earlier designs and were single breasted with 6 buttons. The collar was also a different shape to previous collars. Not only did these coats save money and fabric they were easier and quicker to make. The first coats were issued from September 1914 onwards. Here is a link to the website page where I found out about the coats. Unfortunately it’s in French, but very well illustrated.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another beautiful Lady

Marville was an actress who worked at the Moulin Rouge as a hippomobiliste at the beginning of the twentieth century

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life continues

Another view of the Eiffel Tower during the floods of January 1910, but the main subject is the steam train making its way through the water…

Click on the image for a better view

Friday, January 08, 2010

Paris 1910

One hundred years ago this month Paris was flooded. There were plenty of postcards depicting the event which caused a lot of damage, but what is more interesting is the back of the postcards. Ordinary people telling their friends in other parts of the country that they were safe. Can you imagine the state of the water which invaded people’s homes? The smell?

Just one of the streets that were flooded

The railway station at Orsay resembled a swimming pool.

The Navy was even called in to help

The Eiffel tower contemplating its refection

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy new Year

We had snow for a few minutes this morning - not enough for a snowball. I hope that you are warm and safe wherever you are.